East Bay seniors in assisted living facility receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccines

"I feel half-safe now."
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- On Thursday, East Bay public health officials began expanding the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process to one assisted and independent living senior center in Walnut Creek.

Up until early January, frontline healthcare personnel and nursing home residents were the only recipients of the vaccines in the Bay Area.

Byron Park Senior Living says they were selected the pilot facility for the John Muir COVID-19 strike team vaccination effort because of their excellent track record in COVID protocol.

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"I feel half-safe now," 90-year-old resident Gloria Geller joked as she got the vaccine Thursday afternoon.

Christina Eck, a John Muir COVID strike team nurse, explains that putting together this vaccination process has been a collaborative effort with public safety as the imperative.

"It's John Muir, Kaiser and the county. We've all been working since July to reach all these facilities," Eck says. "We are trying to jump the gun and get over here and get people vaccinated. Hugely important. Fingers crossed this could be our cure."

Fear has been rampant in congregate living facilities like Byron Park Senior Living throughout the pandemic.

RELATED: COVID-19 prompts demand for home healthcare instead of nursing homes

Major pharmacies are now distributing the vaccine to skilled nursing homes.

Byron Park tenant Luisa Lynch was grateful to get a shot this week.

"It's like living in a petri dish because everybody is vulnerable," Lynch says. "And if we all now get vaccinated it's going to be living in a bubble. We're going to be safe."

The hope the seniors share, like everyone, is to eventually see their family and friends again.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them and going out with them and eating in restaurants with them like I used to," Geller says. 270 residents and staff were vaccinated in one day with only a handful of people opting out.

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Residents, even those in their 90s, said it's just like getting a flu shot.

In mid-January, other East Bay assisted living facilities will begin getting their vaccines as well.

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